I have been in the mood for a proper Victorian romance lately! I mean the last 4-6 weeks all I have been reading are murder mysteries and horror so a romance would be a nice little break.
This romance sounds like it’s going to be charming and fun and today I have a lovely excerpt up on my blog to check out!
After reading this little blurb, I can hardly wait to read this one! Sadly I couldn’t fit it in for the upcoming tour as a review, but I am going to read it all the same and will be posting a review here soon but for now be sure to check out this lovely book!
A standalone novel in The Dread Penny Society set in 1865 London brimming with secrets, scandal, suspense, and romance.
From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.
Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.
When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.
When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?
HIGGLEBOTTOM’S SCHOOL FOR THE DEAD: A Ghost of a Chance
by Lafayette Jones
Ace Bowen had been a student at Higglebottom’s School for the Dead for a few months and was quickly becoming the school’s most legendary pupil. He was learning the art of being a ghost faster than anyone before him, and he did it with flair.
He walked the corridors of Higglebottom’s with an otherworldly strut. Ghosts could walk, no matter that the living seemed to think all they did was float. Floating, in fact, was more difficult. The other students always waved to him as he passed.
The staff shook their ghostly heads in amusement. He was the life of the school, so to speak. He, along with his friends, Bathwater and Snout, was also the source of most of its mischief.
“Pouring ink into the laundry cauldron so the haunting shrouds all turned light-blue. Tightening all the floorboards so none squeaked during the Third Form’s ‘Ghost Walking’ exams.” Professor Rattlebag had been listing the boys’ pranks. He wasn’t likely to finish before the end of the dinner hour. “Teaching the school parrot to mimic the sound of rattling chains so Professor Dankworth could not be heard during her ‘Disguise Ghost Conversations with Sundry Sounds’ lesson.”
Oh, the parrot could mimic more sounds than just chains. Bathwater sputtered, trying to hold back a laugh. Ace lounged in a chair that wasn’t there—a skill most students didn’t master until at least Third Form.
“I think it best you three go directly to your dormitory,” Rattlebag said. “There will be no dinner for you.”
Skipping dinner wasn’t much of a punishment as ghosts did not actually need to eat, but learning to pretend as if they did proved helpful when wanting to go unnoticed amongst hungry Perishables.
The boys rose and made their way toward the office door. Ace aimed his path toward the wall. “Not through the wall, Mr. Bowen,” Rattlebag said, sounding far too tired for a ghost who’d not needed sleep in nearly a millennium. “You haven’t mastered the skill yet. Nurse Snodsbury was quite put out the last time she had to reassemble you.”
Willing to save Snodsbury a bit of bother, Ace passed through the open door with his ghostly feet a few inches off the floor, another skill a First Form was not meant to have mastered.
No, Higglebottom’s had never seen a student quite like him.
“Rattlebag has no sense of humor,” Snout said as they walked toward their dormitory. “Those gags were brilliant.”
Bathwater shrugged. “Maybe things stop being funny after you’ve been dead nine hundred years.”
“Rattlebag certainly stopped being funny,” Ace said.
They all laughed, not the least worried about punishments or expulsion. The teachers liked them, despite the havoc they wreaked.
“Two weeks until the Spirit Trials,” Snout said. “Do you mean to ask Cropper to join our team?”
Ace was considering it. They needed a crack team for that term’s trials.
For eight hundred years, school terms at Higglebottom’s School for the Dead had ended with the Spirit Trials, a series of tests in which the students demonstrated all they had learned about being a proper ghost. A high enough score allowed the winning team to advance to the next Form early.
Ace was bored to death, as it were, of First Form studies. “Cropper’s whip smart. But he’s not a lot of fun.”
Bathwater attempted to sit in an absent chair but mismanaged the thing, spilling onto and partway through the floor. “I guess I’m not so whip smart, myself,” he said, pulling himself up with some effort. He managed to not leave any bits of himself behind.
Snout eyed Ace with curiosity. “Would you rather have a diverting teammate or a helpful one?”
“The three of us could do well enough to at least pass the Spirit Trials,” Ace said. “Might as well have a lark doing it.”
“Even if it means not skipping to Form Two?” Bathwater asked.
If ghosts had actual hearts, Ace’s would’ve dropped a bit at that question. He wanted to be challenged at Higglebottom’s. But he’d not had much time for larks and absurdity in life. He meant to enjoy a hardy helping of both in the afterlife.
“If we don’t qualify to skip ahead early, we can make the most of our final term in Form One.”
“Rattlebag might advance us anyway,” Snout said.
“Anything to get us out of his classes.”
“All the more reason to make certain the Spirit Trials area highlight.”
“Are you aiming for more mischief?” Bathwater sounded worried. Though he enjoyed their mischief and joined in eagerly, he did worry a bit over it.
“You bet your afterlife, I am.”
Somewhere in the room something thudded, a common sound in a school full of ghosts learning to be proper haunters. But nothing had fallen or shifted or lay in a heap.
“What was that?” Bathwater asked.
“I don’t know, but I mean to find out.” Ace floated—a bit of showing off helped build a touch of confidence—to the noisy side of the room.
Nothing seemed amiss.
Then the bed skirt rustled. The wind wasn’t blowing outside the ancient school. No one in the room was practicing making a draft.
Ace knelt on the floor, careful not to slip through, and peered under the bed, directly into the eyes of a boy. But not just any boy.
A living one.
Chapter 1, pages 12-15
- “The real joy in Eden’s follow-up to The Lady and the Highwayman (2019) is the furthering of the overarching crime story and the work of the Dread Penny Society as Hollis and Ana pursue a chaste romance. Eden excels at exploring the realities of Victorian life and class differences. Once again, chapters of penny dreadfuls written by the characters are interspersed throughout, with Hollis’ story about a school for ghosts offering particular delight. Fans of Eden’s smart series will be thrilled and impatient for the next installment.”— Booklist, starred review
- “Every time I thought my racing heart just couldn’t take the suspense anymore, I’d turn the page and smile.”— Bookconfessions
- “Eden writes it well, so thoroughly researched that you’re transported and in Victoria England. Great suspense and romance.”— Leslie, Books and Socks Rock
- “Undeniably clever, suspenseful, well-researched, and deftly written…”— Katie Jackson, RegencyProofreading.com
- “Charming, suggestive, and featuring rich historical details, The Gentleman and the Thief has the elements of a gritty, juicy penny dreadful.”— Foreword Reviews
Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner. Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.
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